On Oct. 20, the Michigan Air Force Association hosted its monthly Business Over Breakfast at Fern Hill Golf Club in Clinton Township. The guest speaker was Eric Hipple, former Detroit Lions quarterback.

On Oct. 20, the Michigan Air Force Association hosted its monthly Business Over Breakfast at Fern Hill Golf Club in Clinton Township. The guest speaker was Eric Hipple, former Detroit Lions quarterback.

Photo by Alex Szwarc


Business Over Breakfast dives into mental health, suicide prevention

By: Alex Szwarc | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published October 27, 2021

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — From the high of playing in NFL playoff games to the low of losing his son to suicide, Eric Hipple has learned how to mitigate stress.

On Oct. 20, the Michigan Air Force Association hosted its monthly Business Over Breakfast at Fern Hill Golf Club in Clinton Township.

Hipple, the former Detroit Lions quarterback, was the guest speaker.

He said he began talking about suicide prevention programs in 2007 when the Department of Defense asked him to be part of a suicide prevention conference in Texas.

“I’ve been very blessed in this journey of doing advocacy work,” he said.

The 64-year-old Hipple, who played his entire NFL career with the Lions in the 1980s, spent 11 years doing suicide prevention workshops with the Navy.

In 2000, Hipple’s 15-year-old son Jeff committed suicide. In 2008, Hipple released the book Real Men Do Cry.

“I used to make a joke about the book,” Hipple said. “It’s not about my football career with the Detroit Lions.”

In speaking with C&G Newspapers, Hipple said the trauma of losing his son and his own transitional issues launched him into regularly speaking about mental health.

“I went through the University of Michigan Depression Center, and one thing that rolled out of that was the focus on suicide prevention,” he said. “Research was done on professional athletes and the transitional issues when somebody leaves the game, how that affects their mental health and their loss of identity.”

Hipple shared that when he first started talking about mental health 20 years ago, people weren’t listening, which was frustrating.

“Today, the stigma has been lifted quite a bit, and we’re talking about stuff,” he said.

Retired Brig. Gen. Doug Slocum is the Michigan Air Force Association president.

“Networking is a big part of this breakfast,” Slocum said. “When you think Air Force Association, you think a bunch of retired Air Force people will be here. It’s not what you see in here at all. These are community and business leaders and community members.”

Slocum is the former 127th Wing commander at Selfridge and has been the association’s president since January.

He said the association has three main categories — education, advocacy and support. Prior to coming to Michigan, Slocum worked in Washington, D.C., as a director of safety.

“I dove into suicide prevention, sexual assault prevention, resiliency of our airman,” Slocum said. “It wasn’t in my lane, which was cool.”

Discussing the purpose of sport, Hipple said it’s about learning and training.

“We learn by pushing boundaries,” he said. “There have to be consequences; otherwise, you don’t learn. In the military, they train and train and train, so it can be second nature to them. They want to react, not have to think.”

Hipple noted there is an identity aspect of sport that folks can grow with.

“As a person, you learn about where we stand in life and the responses that we get,” he said. “It starts building our core beliefs.”

Regarding resilience, Hipple said when folks learn they can make it and have someone to help pull them through, it means there can be more resilience and can help people face more adversities.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters is slated to speak at the next Business Over Breakfast in November.

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